Capsule Art Reviews: "Emily Halbardier: Deep Green," "Hayden Fosdick: Paper Compounds," Marc Swanson: The Second Story, "Project Row Houses: 2011 Summer Studios"

"Emily Halbardier: Deep Green" At first glance, this show of mixed-media work by Emily Halbardier could come across as under-skilled or shallow in its processes and execution — but that's only a surface judgment, and it would be grossly reductive. While Halbardier's drawings of people are definitely simple representations rather than realistic renderings, they're still very much the work of an adult artist, despite their childlike leanings (think a weirder, less-practiced Shel Silverstein). Halbardier explores coastal living in this show, perhaps the kind of beach life that might survive a cataclysmic tsunami, or perhaps some kind of ironic post-rapture. People go naked, subsist on coconuts, defecate in public and master new surfing techniques. (And some unseen people are playing a lot of soccer.) It's a harmonious life, expressed through Halbardier's progression of images, which include drawing, collage, found photography and UV ink on paper and fabric, illuminated by blacklight. It's way affordable work, too, with nothing more expensive than $250, but I can't imagine a collector buying only one piece. These works function collectively; their likability comes from their close proximity to each other. Through September 15. Domy Books, 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — TS

"Hayden Fosdick: Paper Compounds" Hayden Fosdick's small, minimalist collage works feel right at home on the walls of downtown urban boutique The Tipping Point. The little cut-and-paste jobs, utilizing imagery and paper from a collection of old books the artist inherited from his late father, look like tiny wheat-paste street-art works. Most contain only two or three image components, combined to create a simple yet visually compelling hybrid. Fosdick slips up occasionally, but only because he tries, perhaps, to keep it simple, and some of his juxtapositions lack an organic connection. In other words, some pieces feel unfinished. But there's much to enjoy in this show, like an ear inserted into an incomplete female face, where the earlobe is transformed into the end of a stuck-out tongue; and one in which the upper torso of a woman doing a workout routine springs from the funnel of a tornado. Another plus: The price is right. Most of these pieces can be bought for $150-$200, just a shade more expensive than that cool pair of PUMA high-tops on the shelf. Through October 15. 1212 Main, 713-655-0443. — TS

Marc Swanson: The Second Story This exhibit's title, "The Second Story," suggests that there was indeed a first story, a previous narrative — that this show is in effect a sequel. Or it references a San Francisco gay bar by the same name. Both are true. Viewers familiar with the artist Marc Swanson who are clued in to his gay-culture (specifically ball culture) references, may walk away from the show smugly satisfied, feeling as if they'd received a secret message. But the work is also enjoyable as a series of contemporary memorials: the "second story" of a life. Immediately visible upon entrance is a turtle shell encrusted with rhinestones (Swanson is known for his taxidermied deer heads covered in crystals), a reference to a character in the 19th-century novel Against Nature, who sets gemstones in his pet tortoise's shell, and the extra weight kills the animal. Other works are arrangements of items, chains, fabric and photos, boxed and hung like shrines. One piece is a kind of stacked totem displaying a man's portrait; it includes a little shelf where you might place a candle. Overall the show comes off as a highly personal set of works, and viewers' personal histories will determine the degree to which its symbolic content connects. But even without a reference library, the show emits a strong emotional charge. Through October 9, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS

"Project Row Houses: 2011 Summer Studios" Afternoons right now are probably the harshest conditions in which to brave the un-air-conditioned installations at PRH, but they're worth a quick look while your clothes become steadily soaked in sweat. Might be a good move to arrive around one p.m., Thursday through Saturday, because that's when UH sculpture student Matthew Gorgol sets up his traveling sno-cone cart and drives it through the Third Ward, giving away frozen, sweet treats. Browsing the houses with a cold cone of flavored ice would definitely make the experience more comfortable. (And it's a genuinely good-natured idea on the part of Gorgol.) All the artists involved in this round of installations are college students nominated by their professors and chosen by a panel of professional artists, and they run from identity-probing questions of beauty standards, like recent HBU graduate Lynissa Hayes's mixed-media series Shifting Beauty in the Black Culture, to TSU student Tony McMillian's Not Jus 3rd Ward, a chain of paintings and spray-painted slogans exploring difficult social issues facing black communities, to Rice graduate Logan Sebastian Beck's conceptual sign-making workshop deLUX. The four-room Greenwood King house gets another stellar treatment with current UH student Brittney Connelly's CasteAways: A Resuscitation of Third Ward. Connelly blankets the walls and furniture with layers of wheat-pasted white and off-white paper, torn and crumpled and peeling off every surface, revealing little cards with handwritten addresses of locations in the Third Ward. It's a kind of metaphor for gentrification and the symbolic mummification of neighborhood history. Through September 11. Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662. — TS

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Troy Schulze
Contact: Troy Schulze